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Politics Roundup: Marijuana's Still Messy and the Next Race for Mayor

Some politics stories to keep an eye on: what San Diego would lose by kicking immigration agents out of local jails, the names being floated for the next mayor’s race and the complexities of the growing green rush.

I used to write up tidbits of things I picked up over the week. My job evolved, and Twitter happened and that sort of fell off.

I’m going to try to do it again but I can’t offer any promises on frequency. Here are a few things I’m watching.

San Diego vs. Trump

One theme I’ve been following closely is the lack of definition of what a sanctuary city actually is. We hear a lot about them but when President Trump took his job, his lieutenants had no idea how to actually define them.

Thus, San Diego officials – both city and county – could argue both sides of the situation. They could reassure residents in immigrant communities that they can trust police officers not to enforce immigration law. They could also reassure immigration hardliners that they are not an actual sanctuary city.

We had no idea where that would come in conflict.

Well, now we do.

Last year, the Department of Justice gave San Diego’s police and sheriff more than $500,000 to improve computer systems. Other local cities got smaller grants, called Byrne Justice Assistance Grants.

But this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released new rules saying any place that keeps immigration officers out of jails will not be eligible for the money.

Several immigration officers work in San Diego county jails. A pending state Senate bill would kick them out.

Half a million dollars is pretty small in the city’s budget, but it’s still half a million dollars. So far, city leaders have been quiet on the state legislation.

Kersey, Out

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey let it be known that he is running for the state Senate seat held by Joel Anderson, who will be termed out. That could be an interesting race, with former Assemblyman Brian Jones running too.

But it sounds like Kersey is definitely out then as a potential 2020 mayoral candidate.

We’re still a long way from that race, of course. But right now the big names I keep hearing are: Rep. Scott Peters and Assemblyman Todd Gloria for the Democrats. On the right, the only name I keep hearing is City Councilman Chris Cate, who just officially launched his own 2018 re-election bid.

Others who may make strong runs:

State Sen. Toni Atkins

 Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez

Unlikely to run but could be competitive if they wanted to try:

 City Attorney Mara Elliott

 Assemblywoman Shirley Weber

 Activist Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign

 SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman

 Carol Kim, political director of the Building Trades Council, union coalition

 Mark Cafferty, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

Marijuana’s Still Messy

If you have a minute or about 50, take a listen to our new podcast, I Made it in San Diego. It’s our new show about entrepreneurs. This week, I sat down with James Slatic, considered a pioneer in the legal marijuana world.

Slatic has a dizzying entrepreneurial background that started well before he got involved with marijuana.

I had no idea of the twists and turns the discussion would take. I sat down with him for our first interview only days after he had persuaded a judge to force the district attorney to return hundreds of thousands of dollars to him. She had seized the assets without filing charges.

A few days after that first chat, though, it all changed. He suddenly faced felony charges, and I had to call for a follow-up.

It’s a great story.

We’re months away from full legalization for adult marijuana use. Cities like San Diego will decide where and who can participate in the commerce that’s coming. It’s triggered a green rush – a true mania. All kinds of business people, investors, engineers, accountants, real estate brokers and lobbyists are getting into the game. I met Slatic after moderating two panels with him in front of groups of these stakeholders.

One thing is interesting about many of them: They don’t want to touch the actual marijuana.

They want to invest in real estate, or companies that make hot ancillary products, or irrigation companies or something, anything not directly involved in acquiring cannabis and handing it to people.

Slatic and a few others swam in a different current. Marijuana was technically legal for medical use but nothing has ever really been clear. Entrepreneurs had to be activists. There is no clear line dividing where marijuana is legal and where it’s not. It’s illegal everywhere (according to the feds) and legal in California (according to the state).

So we’re in a kind of tense détente of prosecutorial discretion. Lawyers can’t really give you advice on how to stay clean. Slatic’s attorney, in fact, stands accused along with him, which has sent a chill to counterparts in the local bar.

Watch for stories on this – the people trying to make money on something that has gotten a lot of people in trouble for a long time.

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